REVIEW: OlliOlli for the PS Vita [VIDEO]

By Luke Caulfield , Updated Jan 21, 2014 01:48 PM EST
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Like I'm sure a lot of you did, when I first heard about Roll7's OlliOlli, I was more than intrigued. I can't even begin to count all the hours I've spent playing as many skateboarding games as I could: Top Skater, the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games, Thrasher: Skate and Destroy, and more recently, EA's Skate series. I even played some of the more atrocious titles, like Street Sk8er, Grind Session, and MTV Sports: Skateboarding. While some games out there are little more than clones of the popular THPS franchise, others stand on their own, and OlliOlli is one of those.

With its over-the-top circus moves and tricks that border on acrobatics, THPS is cited as the quintessential arcade skateboarding game. In that regard, you could call OlliOlli a delightful throwback to arcade hits of yesteryear. Why? Aesthetically, the pixel styled graphics are charming, reminiscent of games gone by. Gameplay wise, it's a simple 2D side-scroller where you launch your skater down stairs in a spectacular display of flip trick and railslide combos. A skateboarder platformer? That's a first.

With leaderboard support, points matter again, and the competitive will bust their ass trying to get the top spot. Simple, but that doesn't mean the game loses out on any challenge.

The first thing you'll notice playing OlliOlli is a somewhat familiar trick system that's comparable to Skate or Thrasher, in that you launch into tricks directly from the ground. You don't jump and THEN decide if you're going to bust out a shove it or 360 flip. Tricks are performed by a basic flip on the Vita's left analog stick, and the same goes for grinds and slides. You'll have to be quick to launch yourself over stairs or grind a ledge, otherwise you'll miss the opportunity for big points.

This is where most of the challenge of the game lies. Courses will get more difficult as you progress through the game's Career Mode, and some basic memorization of the layout is required to ensure you're always going fast enough so you don't land halfway down the set and go out like Christopher Reeves. In most skateboarding games, a bail is no big deal. Just dust yourself off and try it again. In OlliOlli, if the tumble is bad enough, then back to the beginning of the level you go. Not SuperMeatBoy difficult, but definitely unforgiving. Having to hit X at precisely the right moment before landing to ensure a perfect over a sketchy or sloppy landing is rough to get used to at first, maybe even tedious, but is easy enough to adapt to.

Beyond the game's quick pace, what keeps the challenge level high are the five tasks to achieve in each of the 100 levels, not to mention the trophies. Definitely a grind, no pun intended. If that grows tiresome, there's three other play modes to keep things going:

* Spots Mode - Like in Skate, whoever gets the biggest score here goes home the champion. But you only get one combo to pull off the high score, so find the money spot and go for it.
* Daily Grind - For the truly competitive. Same basic concept as Spots Mode. Practice all you like, but once you're ready, you only get one chance per day to bust out the best combo.
* RAD Mode - Unlockable for the truly skilled, the version of the game only allows for perfect grinds and landings.

Faults of the game are limited, but still present. Gamers have been spoiled by the amount of tricks offered by the THPS and Skate games, and while the number of tricks in OlliOlli is high, Roll 7's game only offers flip tricks and grinds. The game features no grab tricks, and nothing to chain combos together (like a manual) and let scores climb ludicrously high. But this is forgivable with the game's retro nature.

Early on, there's not much to separate OlliOlli's levels from each other, so gameplay can drone on for a bit and you'll have to push through if you want to see the later levels. As such, it's not the type of game you'll want to play for hours on end. But with its special $10.39 price during launch week (normally $12.99), you'll get more than a bang for your buck. The game is out now in North America, and hits Europe tomorrow. Check out the trailer video below if this review isn't enough for you to make up your mind.

Final Score - 8.5

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